Search Site
Menu
830 Post Road East, Suite 301 | Westport, Connecticut 06880
Call For Consultation 203-557-9500
Divorce

Divorce Attorney in Westport, CT

(Serving Lower Fairfield County)

Divorce Lawyers in Westport provide trustworthy advice about how to file for divorce in Connecticut

Attorney Melissa Needle_Needle Cuda Divorce and Family Law Westport, CT

If you have decided to dissolve your marriage, or if your spouse has served you with divorce papers, you are probably wondering, “What happens now?” The Westport divorce attorneys at Needle | Cuda understand your concerns and want to set your mind at ease. By working closely with you, we can develop a plan tailored for you that is effective in resolving points of conflict on favorable terms. Whether your circumstances necessitate a non-adversarial divorce to put your marriage behind you, a meticulous analysis of your assets to protect your property rights or aggressive litigation to preserve your parental rights, our experienced and knowledgeable Connecticut divorce attorneys work with you to pursue these goals.

How to file for divorce in Connecticut: Key elements in a Connecticut divorce action

A divorce complaint (for the dissolution of a marriage) requires the resolution of three main components between the parties before an agreement can be presented before a family court on behalf of the parties:

Child custody

Asset/property division

Disposition of income (a.k.a. Alimony)

 

Child custody (when applicable) includes physical custody and legal custody. Needle | Cuda has extensive experience resolving all kinds of child custody disputes (e.g. visitation, education, travel, religious education, medical/healthcare, relocation and COVID-19 related welfare concerns) and can skillfully negotiate and define an enforceable, long-term parenting plan that works for you, your children and your life.

We represent parents in child custody disputes arising during and after divorce and in connection with paternity matters. We understand the importance of your relationship with your children as well as your concern for their health and welfare. We work tirelessly to protect your parental rights consistent with your children’s best interests.

We represent parents in disputes over visitation and parenting plans, including allegations of interference and parental alienation. We also represent third parties, such as grandparents and siblings, seeking visitation with a child.

Needle | Cuda also handles unique and highly nuanced issues related to child custody, visitation, and parental rights in same-sex marriages concerning the legal and physical custody rights of both biological and non-biological parents.

Asset/property division involves a detailed accounting process through which the marital assets are both identified and valued so that an agreement may be formed to divide and distribute them. Assets typically include: real estate, investment accounts, retirement accounts, 401(k) plans, annuities, ownership interests in family and/or closely held businesses and other types of complex property ownership (e.g. intellectual property, artwork and antiques). Division of property may also include assets owned before the marriage, assets inherited (before or during the marriage) or assets held in trust, although each of these categories may require a more detailed analysis.

Needle | Cuda works extensively with a network of experienced valuation experts, accounting professionals and subject matter specialists who can be called upon to complete complex property and business valuations that are unique to your situation.

Income/Alimony has two subsets, alimony and child support. Child support is often relatively straightforward as its rules and amounts are subject to an income-driven model set by state guidelines. However, there are various situations that may call for a deviation from the guidelines, such as where the income of the parties exceeds the guidelines and therefore requires more evidence of what is the appropriate child support award. Alimony is usually more complex as it involves consideration of multiple factors, such as length of the marriage, earning capacity and the contributions of each spouse during the course marriage. There are no guidelines for alimony. Often complicating the picture is income derived from ownership of a business. It may be necessary to differentiate income that is related to asset ownership/investment from income earned through employment at the business. Needle | Cuda has extensive experience negotiating these complex issues, especially on behalf of its high net worth clients.

The Best Divorce Attorneys in Connecticut for Complex Divorce, Child Custody, and Business Valuations specialize in CT Family Law

Divorce can get complicated, requiring negotiated solutions and sometimes aggressive litigation. The complex issues we manage include:

High-net-worth divorce — When the financial stakes are high, you need a skilled legal advocate to uphold your rights. We have vast experience with high-net-worth divorces, so you can trust us to advocate for a fair valuation and division of assets in your case.

Earning capacity — When a parent is determined to be voluntarily unemployed or underemployed without a good faith reason, or for the reason of avoiding paying support, the court may be authorized to impute income based on an “earning capacity.” When determining the earning capacity of a spouse, the court may consider a wide range of factors, including but not limited to earnings history, educational background, work experience, special skills, age, medical history and disabilities.

Relocation — A conflict can arise when a parent seeks to move out of the state with the children or at a distance that makes regular joint custody or visitation impossible. In relocation disputes, we work to find creative solutions that advance your children’s best interests and also safeguard your parental rights.

No divorce-related issue is too complex for our accomplished legal team to tackle.

Learn about the divorce process by consulting Needle | Cuda’s experienced Westport Family Lawyers and Divorce Attorneys

When choosing a lawyer, there is no substitute for experience. At Needle | Cuda, the range and depth of our long-standing family law practice enables us to adapt and shift tactics whenever circumstances require, so you can trust our advocacy even if your divorce takes an unexpected turn. We are also proud of our reputation for providing compassionate client service and highly professional representation.

Your first meeting with us

At your initial consultation, we try to get a clear idea of your current situation and your goals for the future. We may ask you to bring certain documents, such as tax returns, account records and evidence of your household income. By taking the time to thoroughly understand your situation — your reasons for ending your marriage, your financial and parental concerns and your objectives for life after your marriage ends — we can answer your questions and present your options in a way that provides you with a comprehensive picture of the divorce process and its potential complications and outcomes.

Contact our Westport, CT divorce lawyers for savvy and straightforward legal counsel

If you are going through a divorce in Fairfield County, Needle | Cuda is ready to help. We provide highly responsive service and effective representation focused on positive results. To arrange a consultation, call us today at 203-557-9500 or contact our Westport office online.

Within Greenwich, we serve clients in Belle Haven, Old Greenwich, Riverside, Mianus, Cos Cob, Byrum, Glenville, Pemberwick, Stanwich, Lake Avenue and Round Hill.

Within Fairfield County, Needle | Cuda proudly serves Greenwich, Darien, Rowayton, New Canaan, Stamford, Norwalk, Westport, Southport, Fairfield, Greenfield Hill, Ridgefield, Wilton, Weston, Redding, Easton and the surrounding towns and communities in lower Fairfield County, CT.

 

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers – Procedures, Requirements, and General Information about Connecticut Divorce

A divorce complaint (petition) can be filed in Connecticut at any time after either spouse establishes residency in Connecticut. However, a divorce can only be granted if one of the following residency requirements is met:

  1. Either spouse established and maintained residency in Connecticut for at least 12 months before:
    • the divorce was filed; or
    • the date of the divorce decree; (In other words, you can file for the divorce before 12 months of residency but the judge will not grant the final divorce until the 12 months of residency are completed);
  2. Either spouse was domiciled in Connecticut at the time of the marriage AND returned to Connecticut with the intent to live there permanently before filing for divorce.; or
  3. The grounds on which the divorce is being pursued occurred after you or your spouse moved into Connecticut.  Although this prong of the statute doesn’t mention anything about a 12 month residency requirement, a majority of judges still require completion of 12 months’ residency before granting a divorce.

NOTE: Members of the armed forces are considered residents of Connecticut for the length of his/her service if he/she/they were a resident of Connecticut when they enlisted in the military.

Yes. In most cases at least one spouse must have been lived in Connecticut for the past 12 months before the court can grant a divorce (called a  "Dissolution of Marriage" in Connecticut). The 12 months requirement can be measured as of the date the plaintiff-spouse files their complaint OR as of the date the court enters a final decree.

There are a few exceptions to this general rule. For example, if a spouse was domiciled in Connecticut at the time of the marriage, left Connecticut AND the returned to Connecticut with the intent to live there permanently before filing for divorce.  In that case, the 12 month requirement would not apply.

"Grounds" are legally acceptable reasons for a divorce.

In Connecticut, there are two types of "grounds" available for a divorce petition:

  • No-Fault; and
  • Fault

FAULT-BASED Divorce grounds include:

  • Adultery;
  • Fraudulent Contract (your spouse intentionally deceived you to enter into the marriage);
  • Willful Desertion (your spouse purposely deserted/abandoned you for one year);
  • Seven (7) years of Absence from the marriage without any communication or contact;
  • Drug and/or alcohol Addition;
  • Intolerable Cruelty;
  • Imprisonment (under certain circumstances/conditions) (e.g. your spouse committed a crime that is punishable by imprisonment of more than a year and involves a “violation of a conjugal duty,” which courts have interpreted to be crimes of a sexual nature;2 or
  • Mental Illness where your spouse is confined to a hospital, mental hospital, or other similar institution because of mental illness for at least five years within the six-year period before you file your divorce complaint.

When filing a Fault-based divorce complaint in Connecticut, a plaintiff must prove (with specific evidence) that the other spouse's misconduct was what caused the relationship to fail.

Fault-based divorce tends to be the "road less taken" because Fault-based divorce typically trigger additional hostility, unnecessarily highlights emotional issues, and can drive-up attorneys' fees as a result of the additional conflict that is introduced into the process.

Notwithstanding, the State of Connecticut permits Family Law Judges to factor the causes of divorce when awarding Alimony and dividing marital property/assets.

Yes, the State of Connecticut allows for a divorce complaint to be file on "No-Fault" grounds.

A No-Fault divorce requires only one party to claim that their marriage is "broken down irretrievably."

It is important to note that a petition filed on "No fault" grounds does NOT preclude a Family Court from factoring into their decisions that one spouse is the reason why the marriage broken down.

Specifically, Connecticut divorce statutes explicitly permit a judge to factor the causes of the divorce into their decisions when dividing marital property and/or awarding alimony (C.G.S. - §§ 46b-81 (c) and 46b-82 (a).)  Conversely, it does not mean that Family Judges will indeed factor the causes a marriage breaks down into their decisions, just that they have the discretion to do so. As always, it depends on the particular circumstances of each case.

NO FAULT Divorce grounds include:

  • The marriage has broken down irretrievably (beyond repair with no chance of recovery);
  • Spouses have lived separately and apart due to incompatibility for a continuous period of eighteen (18) months prior to the "service" of the divorce complaint AND have no reasonable expectation for reconciliation.  (C.G.S. Section 46b-40 (c).)

Connecticut Family Courts and most couples opt to file for divorce with "No-Fault" grounds - where neither spouse is blaming the other for the dissolution.  Generally speaking, this simplifies the process and minimizes potential emotional conflicts.

Generally, all parties seeking a Connecticut Divorce must ordinarily wait at least ninety (90) days to get a divorce in Connecticut (this is commonly known as the "Cooling Off Period," however, there are exceptions for Non-Adversarial Divorce, Divorce with Agreement, and other specific circumstances where this requirement can be waived.  See link to Non-Adversarial Divorce Flow Chart and other Waiver Exceptions.

A Non-Adversarial Divorce can be filed and heard in thirty-five (35) days or less without having to appear in Court on the divorce date, however, there specific requirements/conditions that must be met (which are very narrow) :

1. Married 8 years or less
2. Neither spouse is pregnant
3. No children
4. No interest or title in real property
5. Property owned is less than $35,000
6. No defined benefit pension plan
7. No pending bankruptcy proceedings
8. No other divorce action pending
9. No restraining or protective orders
between you and your spouse

It is also possible to obtain a divorce prior to the ninety (90) day waiting period through Divorce by Agreement Waive 90.

High Net Worth Divorce and Contested Divorces

Notwithstanding the above, most cases that we see in lower Fairfield County are significantly more complicated wherein one spouse contests/disputes one or more required elements of a Divorce Agreement (e.g. Alimony, Custody, Property/Asset Division) -- this is particularly true with respect to the high-net-worth cases in which we specialize.

In simple terms (and on the rational side of the fence), there tends to be more financially at stake with respect to marital property in Fairfield County (e.g. complex financial assets, multiple homes/title to and appraisals of real estate, and valuation equity interests family and private business and the related liquidity,and family trusts/inheritances/transfer of generational wealth) wherein a great many divorcing parties often have difficulty resolving the related disputes due to their complexities and the need to involve a team professionals (e.g. lawyers, valuation experts, accountants, tax specialists, appraisers, etc) .  The path to resolution, settlement, and formal agreement on marital property and alimony is not always a straight line (e.g. the need to involve of experts and expert testimony; alternative dispute resolution methods like represented mediation or arbitration to move past the sticking points, etc.)

Prior to COVID-19, market guidance regarding the length of time to resolve Divorce action with some level complexity was (6) months to eighteen (18) months -- back when the process of filing motions, scheduling appearances, case management dates/scheduling, and the ability to appear before a family law judge flowed in their normal course.

Post Covid-19 ongoing state and federal government restrictions it is not unreasonable to offer "market" timeline guidance of one (1) to (2) years.  Post Covid-19, Family Court processes and procedures have been modified (a range Superior Court hearings on matters are now handled virtually (via Microsoft Team Video); some types of agreements and motions can be procedurally moved forward "on the papers"; court scheduling (in-person) has been significantly restricted and prioritized around emergency motions (e.g. domestic violence, child abuse, etc.); and case management timetables are much longer).  Notwithstanding the many efforts to adapt to ensure safe operation, the Connecticut Family Court system is faced with a major backlog with some trial/hearings extending out (1) year or more.

Contested Child Custody Divorce Cases - In our divorce and family law practice, contested child custody cases are both the most difficult thing we do and also the most rewarding.  Practically speaking, Contested Child Custody Cases typically take longer to resolve, are inherently more complicated, and come with an emotional "wild card."  "How Child Custody issues can or will extend the timeline of your case?" -- always boils down to you and your spouse -- and whether reaching agreement through negotiation is possible OR if the use/leverage of Litigation (going to trial), Represented Mediation, or Arbitration will be required.

Contested Divorce involving Mental Illness, Substance Abuse, Domestic Violence, Personality Disorders (Narcissistic Personality Disorder), Gaslighting, Parental Alienation, Privacy and Safety Concerns, Motions for Contempt, Arrests and Criminal Charges - Simply put, these types of cases are "wild cards" when it comes to offering accurate guidance with respect to a resolution timeline.  The only reasonable guidance to be offered is that these cases take longer and depend on the behaviors, actions, decisions and compromises in which you and your spouse can engage in and/or are capable of given the unique mental/personal health/safety issues and circumstances associated with your case.  These cases are extremely difficult and less likely to be resolved through negotiation and agreement (without court or third party intervention) because they involve uncontrollable behavior, emotional/irrational decision making, unrealistic expectations, and the potential of physical harm and personal safety.   More often than not, these types of cases will involve ex parte restraining orders, a wide range of emergency motions and enforcement actions; Court ordered custody evaluations; Court appointed Guardian Ad Litem ("GAL') or Attorney for the Minor Child ("AMC"); Individual and family therapy (both voluntary and court ordered); Police involvement, police reports, and occasional arrests and criminal court cases; and Private, specialty, and forensic investigators/experts.

The Cost of Divorce in Connecticut

Hourly Rates for Divorce and Family Law Attorneys in Connecticut and Fairfield County

Hourly rates for Divorce and Family Law Attorneys in Connecticut range from $300 to $1,000/hour.

In Fairfield County, CT the range is more accurately described between $500 to $1,000/hour (and generally what will be required by attorneys in offices located in town like Greenwich, New Canaan, or Westport)

Retainer-based Relationship

Most Divorce and Family Law Attorneys work on a Retainer Basis (meaning they require you to prepay your legal fees and hold them in Trust until the fees are earned).  It is rare that a Divorce Attorney will work without a Retainer on account.  Your Divorce Attorney is required to engage you with a Retainer Agreement that documents the scope of the representation in your case and the basis or rate of fee and expenses for which the client will be responsible (e.g. billing policy; hourly rates; collection of third party administrative disbursements like filing fees, service of complaints; transcripts; Expert fees and Retainers; a termination clause, and dispute resolution process, etc.) [C.S.G. Annotated Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.5]

Initial Retainers for Divorce and Family Lawyers in Connecticut and Fairfield County

Initial Retainers in divorce cases range from $5,000 to $100,000 (the higher end of this range applying to high-net-worth cases (with complex property/asset division), contested child custody, child relocation, and generally if your case is not expected to settle and/or will be heavily litigated and/or move into trial preparation.

In Fairfield County, it is common for a Divorce and Family Law Firm to require Initial Retainers between $25,000 and $75,000 before entering and beginning work on a case (a.k.a. entering an appearance and filing/responding to a Divorce Complaint).Iota

Initial Consultations

Most Divorce and Family Law Attorneys in Fairfield County do not offer Free Initial Consultations.  That said, there are some exceptions.

IOLTA Trust Accounts

Attorneys are required to hold your Retainer Funds in a Trust Account (also called an IOLTA Account).  As work related to your case commences and is performed, your law firm will issue bills (typically monthly) and apply monies held in the IOLTA Trust against the ending balance of reflected in your bill.  Attorneys and paralegal professions bill on an hourly basis (usually measured in 15 minute/.25 hour increments).

Retainer Replenishment

Once your IOLTA Retainer Balance is depleted and drops below the floor amount reflected in your retainer agreement, you will be required to replenish fund up to a defined threshold (also reflected in your Retainer Agreement).  At the end of your case, any balances held in your IOLTA Trust Account will be returned to you.

In Connecticut divorce cases, each spouse is responsible for their legal and court costs. In some cases, a judge can order one spouse to pay for both partners legal and court fees.

One of the most common questions asked by men and women who are contemplating a divorce is “how will my spouse’s cheating on me” impact the case.

The short answer is that generally and in a vast majority of cases it does not.  Although Divorce Complaints can, in fact, be filed in Connecticut on Fault-based or No-Fault grounds.  Most divorces are filed on No-Fault grounds - where neither spouse is blaming the other for the dissolution.  Generally speaking, this simplifies the process and minimizes potential emotional conflicts.  Further, plaintiff -spouses do not have to prove (with specific evidence) that the other spouse's misconduct was what caused the relationship to fail in their divorce action.

It is important to note that a petition filed on "No fault" grounds does NOT necessarily preclude a Family Court from factoring into their decisions that one spouse is the reason why the marriage broken down.

Specifically, Connecticut divorce statutes explicitly permit a judge to factor the causes of the divorce (a.k.a. fault) into their decisions when dividing marital property and/or awarding alimony (C.G.S. - §§ 46b-81 (c) and 46b-82 (a).)  Conversely, it does not mean that Family Judges will indeed factor the causes a marriage breaks down into their decisions, just that they have the discretion to do so.

As always, it depends on the particular circumstances of each case.  An example where infidelity could be a factor might in a judge's decision to divide assets and/or set alimony in Connecticut is an instance where a husband defendant supported a girlfriend or formed a de-facto second family and systematically siphoned off/diluted marital assets/income over time.

Historically speaking, adultery was a serious allegation, and fault for a divorce played a role in the awarding of support or alimony and who received what assets of the marital estate. Nowadays, in most states the existence of adultery doesn’t really impact divorces cases at all. Family Judges do not measure/meter out moral authority or play the role condemning a cheater spouse. While they may feel sympathy for the cheated upon spouse, they are no suppose to let those feelings guide the resolution of a case.

Instead, Connecticut Courts look to focus and make a determination on the equities involved. They consider who contributed what to the family. They also consider how the result should get divided without considering “punishment” as a factor.

In Connecticut, cheating doesn’t really “matter” in the big picture – there are usually more compelling and substantive legal arguments on which to focus and make.

No, you (the parties) do not have to appear in Connecticut Court to get a Uncontested Divorce.

The State of Connecticut Judicial Branch recently announced that uncontested divorces will be permitted remotely, without the requirement of physical presence in court. This is significant given the current status of court closures because it means that if you have reached agreement with your spouse.

Until recently, physically appearing in family court before a judge was required to finalize a divorce and obtain a court ordered Divorce Decree.

As a result of government office shutdowns and disruptions due to COVID-19, the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch revised is procedure to allow "Final Judgments" and "Orders" as to Separation Agreements and other agreements related to Divorce and Family Law cases without requiring the parties (or their counsel) to appear in Court.

Accordingly, the following type of actions can be accepted and heard "on the papers":

  • Divorce or Legal Separation (Uncontested) -- including Uncontested Divorces filed online (see - What is the procedure (in Connecticut) for filing an Online, Uncontested Divorce?)
  • Custody / Visitation Agreements
  • Motion / Groups of Motions

Divorcing parties must be very careful when utilizing this process as there are specific documents that must be filed with the Court prior to the Court’s consideration of the Application for Approval without Appearance.  The Connecticut Judicial Branch has developed specific forms that must be utilized if an Agreement is to be approved without the presence of the parties. The type of form depends on the case or action to be disposed of and the Connecticut Judicial Branch has developed a website specifically outlining which forms are for which category of case.

See our May 5, 2002 Blog regarding this subject:  Family Court Orders accepted "On the Papers"

What is the procedure (in Connecticut) for filing an Online, Uncontested Divorce?

The Connecticut Judicial Branch has now made it possible to meet the legal requirements of an uncontested divorce online by requiring Affidavits to be filed (Affidavit in Support of Entry of Divorce Judgment, Plaintiff or Defendant) in lieu of in-person testimony, and a Request for Approval of Final Agreement Without Court Appearance.

To proceed with an uncontested divorce, a fully executed Separation Agreement and sworn Financial Affidavits (from both parties) must be e-filed with the court, and if applicable, the following:

  • Child Support Guidelines;
  • An Affidavit Concerning Children;
  • Advisement of Rights;

Until recently (prior to COVID-19), the parties and counsel were required to personally appear before a judge for an uncontested hearing for approval and entry of the Separation Agreement as final orders of the court.

Can I get a Divorce (Uncontested) in Connecticut without appearing in court?

Yes, it is possible to get a Connecticut Divorce (Uncontested) without appearing in family court.

The State of Connecticut Judicial Branch recently announced that uncontested divorces will be permitted remotely, without the requirement of physical presence in court. This is significant given the current status of court closures because it means that if you have reached agreement with your spouse.

Until recently, physically appearing in family court before a judge was required to finalize a divorce and obtain a court ordered Divorce Decree.

As a result of government office closures, courthouse shutdowns and limited operations schedule due to COVID-19, the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch revised is procedure to allow "Final Judgments" and "Orders" as to Separation Agreements and other agreements related to Divorce and Family Law cases without requiring the parties (or their counsel) to appear in Court.

Accordingly, the following type of actions can be accepted and heard "on the papers":

Divorce or Legal Separation (Uncontested) -- including Uncontested Divorces that are filed online --  (see: What is the procedure (in Connecticut) for filing an Online, Uncontested Divorce?)
Custody / Visitation Agreements
Motion / Groups of Motions

Divorcing parties must be very careful when utilizing this process as there are specific documents that must be filed with the Court prior to the Court’s consideration of the Application for Approval without Appearance.  The Connecticut Judicial Branch has developed specific forms that must be utilized if an Agreement is to be approved without the presence of the parties. The type of form depends on the case or action to be disposed of and the Connecticut Judicial Branch has developed a website specifically outlining which forms are for which category of case.

See our May 5, 2002 Blog regarding this subject:  Family Court Orders accepted "On the Papers"

In a Connecticut Divorce, all property is subject to division between the parties based on a concept called Equitable Distribution.

This means that BOTH premarital property AND all property/assets acquired and/or accumulated during the marriage is subject to division between the parties by the court in a fair and equitable way.  This not mean that division of any specific property/asset will be equal or that the split should be 50/50.

Appreciation of all property/assets also factors and falls subject to equitable distribution.

Even if a property was owned by one spouse prior to marriage, the other spouse’s involvement in its management or preservation can influence how the asset is treated by a judge. Take, for example, a business solely owned by the husband prior to marriage. If the wife had expertise in marketing that she applied in helping the business grow, but she took no salary for her work, her labor may strengthen her claim to a share in the value of the business.

It is important to note that Connecticut Family Law Judges have very broad discretion in determining how assets/property are ultimately divided in a  Connecticut Divorce.

And so, any decision to take your case to trial (Family Court) always carries a significant risk--as a family judge's decision/orders may not specifically align with your expectations--including the disposition and division of Premarital Property.  It is always advisable to make every attempt possible to settle your property/asset division disputes by agreement of the parties.

Although all property is subject to equitable distribution in Connecticut, there are proactive measures you can take to shield property you owned before you were married. These include executing a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement --therein designating certain assets as separate property that will be exempt from equitable distribution.  Another such mechanism is keeping premarital accounts separate from family accounts and not using the funds in separate accounts to support family needs, thereby strengthening a claim for retention of those premarital accounts.

Experienced divorce and family law attorneys like Needle | Cuda can help you navigate these complex issues.  Whether you are trying to protect "separate property" through a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement or asserting a claim for "equitable distribution" in your divorce, it is always advisable to consult an attorney.

In a Connecticut Divorce, all property is subject to division between the parties by the court based on a concept called Equitable Distribution.

This means that premarital property (including assets acquired before marriage) can be considered for division by the court in a fair and equitable way.  This not mean that division of any specific property/asset will be equal or that any particular split should be 50/50.

Connecticut Family Law Judges have very broad discretion in determining how assets/property is divided in a  Connecticut Divorce.

And so, the decision to take your case to trial (Family Court) always carries risk as things may not work out or align with your expectations, including the disposition and division of Premarital Property.  It is always advisable to make every attempt possible to settle your property/asset division disputes by agreement of the parties.

Although all property in a marriage is potentially subject to equitable distribution, there are measures you can take to shield property you owned before you were married. These include executing a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement --therein designating certain assets as separate property that will be exempt from equitable distribution.  Another such mechanism is keeping premarital accounts separate from family accounts and not using the funds in separate accounts to support family needs, thereby strengthening a claim for retention of those premarital accounts.

What is the difference between Marital Property, Separate Property, and Property Acquired During the Marriage in a Connecticut Divorce?

Marital Property - Marital Property is a term that refers to any property acquired during the marriage -- except an inheritance or gift;

Separate Property - Separate Property is a term that refers to any property that belongs to one spouse.  Examples include: gifts and inheritances (at the time received);  Assets owned by one spouse prior to the marriage.  To preserve consideration/treatment as Separate Property in Connecticut Family Court, it is important the such property does not become "mixed" or "commingled" after receipt.  If proper administrative and legal attention is not given to such property, claims to that property's designation as "Separate Property" can diminish in strength, effect and/or be completely negated.

Assets Acquired before Marriage - This term refers to any and all assets that were owned by a spouse prior to the marriage and so is a sub-categorization of Separate Property.  If administrative care and legal attention is not given to the organization, ownership, management, and tax treatment of such property, claims to that property can diminish in strength and effect and/or be completely negated.

All Types of Property in Connecticut are considered Marital Property and are therefore subject to "Equitable Distribution" in a Divorce Action

Notwithstanding the above terms-of-reference, Connecticut Family Courts hold broad authority and can discretion with respect to the distribution any and "all" property to either side in a divorce--regardless of how or when it was acquired and/or how "title" is held.  This includes the receipt of gifts and/or inherited property/assets.

Treatment of property division in a Connecticut divorce follows very different rules compared to neighboring states like New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.  This treatment is also different than a vast majority of the states in the country.

Connecticut is thus known as an "All-Property" State where "all property" is fair game in a divorce action.

In those other states where "Equitable Distribution" laws apply to divorce, some states may afford some factor or some consideration with respect to a property's title and/or how ownership is held.  However, in Connecticut no such consideration or weight is given.

What is a pretrail (divorce) conference in Connecticut?

A "pretrial" or "pretrial conference" is a meeting required by the Connecticut family court between the divorcing parties and their legal representatives.  A pretrial conference presents an opportunity for the family court judge to assist divorcing parties in resolving their open disputes and to address any related procedural/administrative matters that have arisen in the case.

In Connecticut, most divorce petitions are subject to a "90 Day cooling-off period" (a waiting period) before they are eligible to get divorced.  [The most common exemption to "90 day cooling off period" occurs with uncontested divorce where the parties reach a full agreement and petition the court to waiver the waiting period.]

Pretrial conferences are part of  an overall  Case Management Agreement formed between the parties by their legal representatives.  Case Management Agreements are formed at the end of the "90 Cooling-off period" and mark the first day of "eligibility" for the parties to get divorced.

A Case Management Agreement gives the court an overview of  your case and a summary of open issues (e.g. financial, custody, etc.).   A Case Management Agreement further includes a procedural timeline that includes: discovery requests and deadlines, depositions, property appraisals, business valuations, and other professional reports/evaluations, etc.) -- as well as the dates for Pre-Trial Conferences.  Case Management Agreements are typically filed with the court along with sworn affidavits from the parties and any temporary agreements (if applicable).  The included dates are flexible (and frequently move) and are generally intended as an outline/guideline to keep the process moving forward at a reasonable pace.

Prior to a pretrial conference, both parties must exchange memorandums that summarize the case and its open issues to the judge.  Financial affidavits of the parties must be fully updated and submitted.  Parties must also offer "proposed" orders that reflect what the parties' seek -- including proposed Parenting Plans and Child Support Guidelines.

If you have reached a full agreement before/at the pretrial, the attorneys will request an Uncontested Divorce Hearing so that the judge can approve and enter final orders (a.k.a. your Divorce Decree).

If there are still open disputes, the judge will rule on motions and enter orders to keep the process productively moving forward.

What happens at a pretrial conference?

Prior to a pretrial conference, both parties are required to exchange memorandums that summarize the case and its open issues to the judge.  Financial affidavits of the parties must be fully updated and submitted.  Parties must also offer "proposed" orders that reflect what the parties' seek -- including proposed Parenting Plans and Child Support Guidelines.

The pretrial conference will generally go in one of two directions:

  • If you have reached a full agreement before/at the pretrial, the attorneys will request an Uncontested Divorce Hearing so that the judge can approve and enter final orders (a.k.a. your Divorce Decree).
  • If there is no agreement and there are still open disputes, the judge will rule on motions and enter orders intended to move the process productively forward.

Automatic Orders are restraining orders that go into effect automatically at the beginning of a Marriage Dissolution case when a Summons and Complaint is validly "served" along with a Notice of Automatic Court Orders AND those "papers" are filed along with "proof of service" from a State Marshall. This filing must occur at least (6) days prior to your Return Date for the court to review and approve.

Automatic Orders are intended to maintain the status quo and to prevent either spouse from taking actions that would materially affect: the value, title and ownership of marital property/assets; the physical custody, day-to-day parenting, and best interest of the children; an important "family" decision without the other spouse's consent.  Restricted actions include: spending a large amount of money; changing life or medical insurance beneficiaries; mortgaging or selling a home; locking the other spouse out of the family residence; or taking children out of the state, etc.

Automatic Orders go into effect for the Plaintiff when the complaint is signed.  Automatic Orders go into effect for the Defendant when a copy of the Summons and Complain (with Notice of Automatic Orders) is validly "served" to the Defendant.

Automatic Orders remain in effect for the full duration of the divorce action (unless changed by another court order);

The Family Court can modify (change) and clarify Automatic Orders and issue new temporary orders as appropriate each case when a Motion to Modify is filed by either party.

Two dates are immediately established in the Court Calendar when a petition for divorce is files (and served):

  • Case Management Date - Case Management Dates are scheduled/assigned according to each family court's administrative schedule and are generally prioritized as a function of your Return Date.  Each family court in Connecticut schedules these administrative days according to a regular operating/administrative schedule.  For example, the Stamford Family Court schedules Case Management Dates on Thursdays...and the Bridgeport Family Court uses Tuesdays.
    • Divorcing Parties must present a Case Management Agreement to the Court by the Case Management Date.  Case Management Agreements typically mark the end "90 Cooling-off period" and represent the first day of "eligibility" for a divorced;
      • The Case Management Agreement gives the court an overview of  your case and a summary of open issues (e.g. financial, custody, etc.).   A Case Management Agreement further includes a procedural timeline that includes: discovery requests and deadlines, depositions, property appraisals, business valuations, and other professional reports/evaluations, etc.) -- as well as scheduled dates for Pre-Trial Conferences.
      • Case Management Agreements are typically filed with the court along with sworn affidavits from the parties and any temporary agreements (if applicable).  The included dates are flexible (and frequently move) and are generally intended as an outline/guideline to keep the process moving forward at a reasonable pace.
  • Return Date - The Return Date is the technical start date for your divorce action.  A Return Date is a procedural reference point--Nothing actually happens in court on the Return Date AND no appearances are required.
    • NOTE:  A Return Date is automatically set and reflected as the "Date of Filing" (a.k.a. "Filing Date") in the Summons and Complain.  In Connecticut, Return Dates are always set on Tuesdays.  Return Date are generally scheduled/timed four (4) weeks out from the initial service. A (4) week lag allows for proper "valid" service to be documented by the State Marshalls and the papers "returned" to the Court -- "service" can sometimes get complicated if a party lives either out-of-state or internationally;  The "return" of "the papers" (e.g.  Summons and Complaint, Notice of Automatic Orders, and proof of service) is required to be filed with the Court six (6) days prior to the stated Return Date.
    • To be clear, the "Filing Date" is NOT the date that you or your spouse is physically served with the Summons and Complaint, but rather the date that those papers are filed will the court along with proof/documentation that the Summons and Complaint was validly "served" by a State Marshall (along with a Notice of Automatic Orders.)  And so once valid "service" is established and accepted by the Court, your action "technically" commences as of the Return Date.

What is a Return Date in a Connecticut Divorce?

Two dates are immediately established in the Court Calendar when a petition for divorce is files (and served):  Return Date and a Case Management Date:

  • A Return Date - The Return Date is the technical start date for your divorce action.  Specifically, a Return Date is a procedural reference point--nothing actually happens in court on a Return Date AND no appearances are required.
    • NOTE:  A Return Date is automatically set and reflected as the "Date of Filing" (a.k.a. "Filing Date") in the Summons and Complaint.  In Connecticut, Return Dates are always set on Tuesdays.  Return Date are generally selected/timed four (4) weeks out from the commencement of "service."   A (4) week lag allows for "valid" service to be documented by the State Marshalls and the papers "returned" to the Court -- "service" can sometimes get complicated if a party lives either out-of-state or internationally;  The "return" of "the papers" (e.g.  Summons and Complaint, Notice of Automatic Orders, and proof of service) is required to be filed with the Court six (6) days prior to the stated Return Date.
    • To be clear, the "Filing Date" for your divorce is NOT the date that you or your spouse is physically served with the Summons and Complaint, but rather the date that those papers are filed will the court along with proof/documentation that the Summons and Complaint was validly "served" by a State Marshall (along with a Notice of Automatic Orders) and subsequent acceptance/approval by the Court.  And so once valid "service" is established and accepted by the Court, your divorce action "technically" commences as of the Return Date.
  •  A Case Management Date - Case Management Dates are scheduled/assigned according to each family court's administrative schedule and are generally prioritized as a function of your Return Date.  Each family court in Connecticut schedules these administrative days according to a regular operating/administrative schedule.  For example, the Stamford Family Court schedules Case Management Dates on Thursdays...and the Bridgeport Family Court uses Tuesdays.
    • Divorcing Parties must present a Case Management Agreement to the Court by the Case Management Date.  Case Management Agreements typically mark the end "90 Cooling-off period" and represent the first day of "eligibility" for a divorced;
      • The Case Management Agreement gives the court an overview of  your case and a summary of open issues (e.g. financial, custody, etc.).   A Case Management Agreement further includes a procedural timeline that includes: discovery requests and deadlines, depositions, property appraisals, business valuations, and other professional reports/evaluations, etc.) -- as well as scheduled dates for Pre-Trial Conferences.
      • Case Management Agreements are typically filed with the court along with sworn affidavits from the parties and any temporary agreements (if applicable).  The included dates are flexible (and frequently move) and are generally intended as an outline/guideline to keep the process moving forward at a reasonable pace.

Automatic Orders in a Connecticut Divorce prohibit a wide range of potential actions (of bad actors).  Automatic Orders are intended to maintain the status quo with respect to property, finances (including debt obligations), domicile, custody, and well being of the parties during the pendency of a divorce.

Prohibited Actions covered by Automatic Orders include:

  • Sale, exchange, or disposition of title or ownership of any property (without mutual consent; a court order; or to cover "normal" household expenses and/or reasonable attorneys fees in the case);
  • Obfuscation of, or deceit with respect to, the ownership of any property and/or titles to any property;
  • The mortgage a property (without mutual consent; a court order; or to cover "normal" household expenses and/or reasonable attorneys fees in the case);
  • Changes to and/or assignment of  "title" to ownership of any asset (without written agreement);
  • Changes in the beneficiaries with respect to any and all insurance policies related to home, auto, property, and/or renters insurance coverages, etc.;
  • Changes or discontinuation of  health insurance and supplemental coverages (e.g. dental, vision, accidental death, STD/LTD, etc.);
  • Taking physical custody of a any child or children (without written consent or a court order);
  • Denial or restricted access to the marital residence (without a court order);

Actions compelled by Automatic Orders include:

  • Completion and exchange of sworn financial affidavits (within thirty (30) days of the Return Date;
  • Mandatory participation in a Parenting Education Class (if you have minor children);
  • Appearance/attendance in court on your scheduled Case Management Date;
  • Filing a Case Management Agreement (if you and your spouse have not reached full agreement);
  • In the event that you move or change your mailing address, written notice of your new address must be provided to the court and the opposing party within forty-eight (48) hours of your move;
  • Maintenance of normal contact and communication with the children for both parents (in any and all forms in the normal course);

How are Automatic Orders enforced in Connecticut Divorce Actions?

If Automatic Orders are violated, a Motion for Contempt can be filed with family court to hold the violating party responsible.

A Motion for Contempt must meet a specific burden of proof.

A Motion for Contempt must show the following:

  1. A clear and unambiguous order was issued by the court;
  2. There was a violation of that order;
  3. The party who violated the order did so willfully;
  4. A specific request for the relied being sought must be presented;

Motions for Contempt in Connecticut Divorce are filed during two distinct phases of your Divorce:

Pendente Lite  Motions for Contempt - These Motions for Contempt revolve around violations of court orders made during the pendency of your divorce--such as Automatic Orders, and temporary alimony, custody, or child support;

Post Judgment Motions for Contempt - If you divorce has been finalized and entered as a court order (a Divorce Decree) enforcement actions for violations the final divorce orders by your ex-spouse are referred to as Post Judgment Motions for Contempt.

Potential court ordered penalties when found in Contempt (in a divorce action) include: Compliance with the previous order (the main goal of a Motion for Contempt), but also might include an order for the party held in contempt to pay some or all of the legal fees associate with the proceeding, and/or jail time.

Note also that in some cases, a judge may extend a finding of contempt to the period before Automatic Order became effective, if there is belief that the violations were committed in contemplation of the filing of the divorce actions (e.g. preemptive divorce planning);

What does the term Pendente Lite mean in Connecticut Divorce?

Pendente Lite refers to the period during which your divorce is pending in Connecticut family court;

It is the period during during which Automatic Orders; and "temporary" alimony, custody, or child support orders are issued.

When a the parties reach a final Separation Agreement, and that agreement is submitted to the family court in an uncontested divorce hearing, and entered at the end of that proceeding as a formal court order (Divorce Decree), the Pendente Lite period ends (and the Post Judgement Period begins);

What does the term Post Judgement mean in Connecticut Divorce?

Post Judgment refers to the period after which your divorce has been finalized in Connecticut family court and entered as a final order (a.k.a. Divorce Decree);

By contrast, the period during which you divorce action is pending is referred to as its' Pendente Lite phase;

Any petitions (motions) for modification after a divorce has been finalized are referred to as Post Judgment Modifications;

Any petitions (motions) for contempt or failure to comply with your final orders are referred to a Post Judgments Motions for Contempt;

 

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers – Alternatives to Divorce in Connecticut

In the State of Connecticut, "Legal Separation" and "Annulment" are legal alternatives to a Divorce.

Legal Separation involves a scenario where a couple wants to live apart, but doesn't want to formally (legally) end their marriage.   A clear example of this involves religious couples where their religious beliefs disallow Divorce.

For more information about Legal Separation reference our Practice area page on this subject Legal Separation in Connecticut and Attorney Alexander Cuda's Blog What is Legal Separation and When is it the best approach?

Annulment -  Annulments and divorces are similar in the sense that they make a determination about marital status.  The key difference between an divorce and an annulment is that a divorce dissolves an existing, valid legal marriage whereas an annulment simply involves a determination that the marriage was invalid and never actually a marriage at all. So, in the eyes of the Connecticut law, an annulment would determine that  marriage never really existed.

In Connecticut, the grounds on which one can file a Complaint for Annulment so as to declare your marriage void include:

  • The spouses are closely related (legally known as "Consanguinity," a blood relationship, in simple terms meaning a close family relationship). No person can marry a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling, parent's sibling, sibling's child, stepparent, or stepchild.
  • Bigamy - One spouse is legally married to someone else at the time of the second marriage;
  • Mental incompetence (at the time of the marriage);
  • Invalid Marriage License where state requirements were not met (e.g. no blood test or a ceremony performed by an authorized officiant).
  • Inducement into the marriage by force, fraud, or duress (coercion) by a third party.
  • A health problem or physical condition of a spouse that directly impacts the core, or heart, of the marriage; A failure to disclose the problem from the other spouse. (e.g. a husband who concealed a known condition of impotence that ultimately prevented the couple from having sexual relations).

 

A Complaint for Annulment must filed in the Connecticut Superior Court in order to obtain a declaration/Court Order that a marriage is invalid or annulled,

The required elements for a Complaint for Annulment include:

  • Date and location of the marriage;
  • Identification of any children that were born from the marriage (e.g. legal names, date of birth, etc.);
  • Disclose of any "other minor children" to which the wife gave birth after the date of the marriage (including the identity of the man is legally responsible for them by court order);
  • Information detailing any aid/support being provide by the State of Connecticut (e.g. child support or spousal support);
  • A clear articulation of the reasons that the marriage was invalid and should be voided under Connecticut law or the law of another jurisdiction, and the reasons why, and
  • Plaintiff's demands for relief (what the plaintiff wants to happen).

The defendant can file an answer after being properly "served" with a Complaint for Annulment.  Defendant's answer may admit or deny any or all allegations in the complaint. The answer should also include Defendant's claims for relief and/or a Cross-Complaint requesting a Marriage Dissolution (a.k.a. divorce), Legal Separation, or Annulment.

Both parties are required to appear in Family Court.  Plaintiff's  must meet the "burden of proof" that the marriage should be annulled or invalidated by offering "clear and convincing evidence."  The State of Connecticut holds a high bar for Annulment because, in general, Connecticut statutes broadly assume that all marriages are legal and valid.

If you pursue an Annulment, it is always best to seek the advice of an experienced family lawyer and there are many related complexities (e.g.  custodial, child support, potential alimony claims, and property/asset division.)

If you are successful and receive a Court Ordered Annulment, your marriage will be deemed invalid from the moment you married, as opposed to the date of the court order. You status as a single person is immediately restored and you can marry again.

Just as with a divorce, the legal separation process begins by one spouse filing a complaint with the court. The complaint may assert the same grounds for separation as would be used for divorce, including the “no fault” basis that the marriage is irretrievably broken down without hope of reconciliation.

While fault may also be asserted as a basis for the legal separation, it is extraordinarily rare since it is sufficient, for purposes of being able to obtain the separation, just to allege irretrievable breakdown. However, the cause of the breakdown of the marriage may still be relevant as a factor affecting alimony and distribution of property awards.

In most ways, the process and outcome of a legal separation are similar to that of a divorce, with the distinction being that at final judgment the parties to a legal separation are still legally married, and cannot remarry. The complaint must be served on the other spouse, who then has the opportunity to file an answer and cross complaint. The resolution of the case is likely to proceed generally in the same manner as a divorce, and may be resolved via a negotiated settlement or trial. A legal separation may also be converted, under certain circumstances, to a divorce.

What is Legal Separation?

Legal separation is a remedy for married couples who no longer want to live together but do not want a final divorce. The effect of a legal separation is essentially the same as a divorce except that neither party is free to remarry. Reasons for seeking a legal separation include:

  • Religious objections to divorce;
  • Dependence on a spouse’s benefits, such as health insurance, which would terminate upon divorce;
  • Hope for a later reconciliation;

Once you have a legal separation, you can obtain a final divorce more easily and quickly. If instead you reconcile with your spouse, you do not need to remarry in order to have a legally married status, as your marital status never changed.

The government considers legally separated spouses as "married."  Couples who divorce after 10 years of marriage may receive Social Security benefits based on the former spouse's earnings, and the tax, estate, and insurance consequences may differ from those of a divorce.  After the legal separation, if one spouse decides to get a divorce, a simple motion to the court and an affidavit stating that the parties have not resumed marital relations converts a separation into a divorce without the participation of the other spouse.

A couple "living apart" is not legally separated

This is true regardless of the length of time, and they do not have the benefits of any court orders, so enforcing non-written, informal agreements may be difficult.

In Connecticut, both divorce and legal separation require a (90) ninety day waiting period. The waiting period begins on the date the petitioner files the complaint for a legal separation. The waiting period gives the parties three months to work out a settlement.

A Legal Separation lasts indefinitely, but it can be undone and the marriage resumed

A legal separation lasts indefinitely. Unlike a divorce, it can be undone when the petitioner files a declaration of resumption of marital relations and the court vacates the separation. However, a legal separation agreement allows the parties to convert the legal separation into a divorce decree easily. The petitioner files a motion asking the court to grant the conversion. If the petitioner makes the request, the judge must approve it. The respondent spouse can't contest it. After the legal separation process has been completed, the court should not require the usual 90-day waiting period to grant a divorce.

Dispute Resolution in Legal Separation

If couples cannot agree on the terms and conditions of their separation, the judge decides issues for them, just as he would in a contested divorce.

How do I file for Legally Separated in Connecticut?

Just as with a divorce, the legal separation process begins by one spouse filing a complaint with the court. The complaint may assert the same grounds for separation as would be used for divorce, including the “no fault” basis that the marriage is irretrievably broken down without hope of reconciliation.

While fault may also be asserted as a basis for the legal separation, it is extraordinarily rare since it is sufficient, for purposes of being able to obtain the separation, just to allege irretrievable breakdown. However, the cause of the breakdown of the marriage may still be relevant as a factor affecting alimony and distribution of property awards.

In most ways, the process and outcome of a legal separation are similar to that of a divorce, with the distinction being that at final judgment the parties to a legal separation are still legally married, and cannot remarry. The complaint must be served on the other spouse, who then has the opportunity to file an answer and cross complaint. The resolution of the case is likely to proceed generally in the same manner as a divorce, and may be resolved via a negotiated settlement or trial. A legal separation may also be converted, under certain circumstances, to a divorce.

ISSUES TO BE SETTLED TO OBTAIN A LEGAL SEPARATION

As with a divorce, a legal separation decree should cover such issues as:

  • Spousal support — A separated spouse may be eligible for alimony.
  • Child custody — The court can require you to attend a parenting program. A Connecticut child custody attorney at our firm can help you achieve a fair and practical parenting plan.
  • Child support —Both parents share responsibility for supporting a child, but payments are usually made by the noncustodial parent to the other parent in amounts that are fixed based on need and financial ability. The child custody arrangement you decide upon will significantly impact an order for support.
  • Property division — As with divorce, Connecticut employs the equitable distribution process, which divides the property of the spouses fairly based on consideration of a host of factors.

As with a divorce, a legal separation decree should cover such issues as:

  • Spousal support — A separated spouse may be eligible for alimony;
  • Child custody — The court can require you to attend a parenting program. A Connecticut child custody attorney at our firm can help you achieve a fair and practical parenting plan;
  • Child support —Both parents share responsibility for supporting a child, but payments are usually made by the noncustodial parent to the other parent in amounts that are fixed based on need and financial ability;
  • The Child custody arrangement you decide upon will significantly impact an order for support;
  • Property division — As with divorce, Connecticut employs the equitable distribution process, which divides the property of the spouses fairly based on consideration of a host of factors.

How these issues are decided can have a huge impact on your future. If you go on to request a dissolution of your marriage, the court will generally use the terms of your separation decree as the basis for your divorce decree.

You should not take any action without careful consideration under the guidance and advice of an experienced divorce and family law form, like Needle | Cuda.

 

What Can I Expect from my Paid Consultation?

Advice from an Experienced Divorce Attorney

Prospective clients who schedule and complete a Paid Consultation get the same advice and service we provide to established clients, even though a formal Client Relationship has not been established.  You will have uninterrupted time with an experienced Divorce and Family Law Attorney to ask questions and explore your options/strategy.

The Benefit of Attorney Client Privilege

Anything you say,convey, and/or communicate to us is subject to the protection of Attorney-Client Privilege  -- as that relationship is established by the payment for service.

Our Dedicated Time and Focus

Our Initial Consultations are scheduled and blocked out for an hour.  Some run longer, but we never rush you.

Document and Case Review with Legal Analysis and Strategy Recommendations

  • Review of existing orders, agreements, and court documents AND a specific legal analysis based on the facts and information that you have provided;
  • Develop a strategy to help you obtain and secure all the personal, financial, tax, healthcare, and medical information you need;
  • A detailed explanation of your rights in a Connecticut Divorce;
  • Review of your options for child custody and visitation, and calculate child and spousal support for you;
  • Inventory your assets and explain characterization and division of assets.
    • Determine if you have any reimbursement rights, and provide an explanation;
    • Assess if you need to hire other experts, such as forensic accountants, vocational evaluators, and/or child custody evaluators.  And, explain the pros and cons of hiring these experts;
  • Explore options for handling your divorce;
    • Litigation
    • Mediation,
    • Arbitration
    • Limited scope representation.

We review your options and explain the potential costs to determine the most cost-effective method to handle you divorce.

It is not unusual for us to advise a client during an initial consultation that our services are actually not needed.  We regularly offer alternatives that benefit only you (and not us), such as referring you or helping you behind the scenes in a mediation.

A Paid Consultation helps you avoids the following time-wasters:

  • Rehashing useless information that can be found on the internet.
    •  We will not waste your time giving you general information you can find on our website.
  • Hard sales tactics.
  • Some Divorce lawyers can be inappropriately and prematurely aggressive.  Some might try to offer a service/strategy that is off-point and hasty maneuvers that are suspect.  Still others may manipulate feeling of anger, fear and paranoia -- creating conflict just to make as much money as possible because “free legal advice” does not pay their bills.
  • Inexperienced or unscrupulous lawyers.

You get what you pay for

In a divorce, your children, marital assets, and future are on the line.  You want a lawyer who understands the complexity and nuances of your finances and assets.  If an attorney is doing free work, they do not understand money.  If they can’t budget for themselves, they certainly cannot advocate on your behalf for an equal/fair division of assets.  Be wary of “cheap” lawyers who will accept $2,500 or 5,000 for your case when your case is replete with complex issues.

Initial retainers do not fund your entire case, and many times, these lawyers enter a case as a "loss leader" with no long-term commitment to you.  It is important to note, that the limited involvement of this kind of attorney can harm you in the long run.  If you pay a cheap roofer to for a “cheap patch job”, and your roof will collapse in the next rainstorm.  When you finally pay a professional roofer, they will charge you more than they would have originally charged you, just to undo the damage from a cheap patch job.  You get what you pay for.

 

 

Most Divorce Attorneys in Fairfield County do not offer Free Consultations.

Needle|Cuda does not offer free consultations.

  • Free consultations create potential liability for Divorce Attorneys (e.g. the possibility of a malpractice claim brought by your spouse in a high conflict divorce);
  • If a Divorce Attorney formally meets with you, that attorney is automatically "conflicted out" of representing your spouse; (in accordance with the Connecticut Rules of Practice)

Lawyers offering Free Consultations are not providing "legal advice"

Most all of the lawyers who offer “Free consults” are not giving you “legal advice.”  There is no such thing as a free lunch, and there are no free consultations in divorce.

Free Consultations create liability for lawyers

Giving legal advice jeopardizes the lawyer, potentially risking themselves of malpractice claims by creating a factual circumstance wherein an attorney-client relationship could be asserted or claimed down the road.   A good, successful lawyer at the top of their game does not expose themselves to liability by giving random legal advice for free.

Those attorneys that  offer Free Consultations simply use them to engage in hard sales tactics and to sell you on their services.  This is a waste of both of your time.

You Get What You Pay For

All of our clients who schedule a Paid Consultation after having “Free Consults” elsewhere have said, “You really do get what you pay for out there.”  In our experience, a thorough initial consultation lasts at least 1 hour.  If a firm or lawyer is willing to commit several hours delivering “free legal advice”, they must be lacking clients or experience.

Remember, a lawyer’s time is his stock.  Reputable, experienced divorce lawyers at the top of their game charge market rates for their time in return for valuable knowledge and expertise.  And, there is a comfort in knowing that you are getting what you paid for.

When facing the prospect of divorce, it is critical to choose the right process to efficiently resolve your open marital disputes, craft an enforceable agreement that meets Connecticut's statutory requirements (known as a Divorce Agreement, Divorce Decree, or Separation Agreement), and complete formal process/procedure required by the Connecticut Superior Court Family Division -- so that your divorce agreement is properly filed with court, certified by the court/family law judge, and entered as a final and valid divorce order.

The complexity and size of your marital property, the relationship and trust level that you have and can maintain during the process with your soon to be ex-spouse, the length of of your marriage, the needs and best interest of your children, and the stability and/or alignment of your parenting views and expectations with your co-parent are some of the most important factors in determining that Mediation is right for you and is able to deliver on its "promise."

On the surface, the most common considerations on which people initially focus include: maintaining privacy, controlling the costs, and minimizing the incredible stress of the process.  In this context, "Are you going to Mediate?" has evolved as the default reaction and "Go To Question" confronting people facing Divorce -- therefore representing the so-called amicable path and positive solution.

By contrast, the perceived opposite of Mediation is the so-called conventional "Divorce" -- where the idea of "hiring a good Divorce Lawyer" seems to be associated with maximum conflict, costly litigation, and the next "War of the Roses."

Both of these perceptions are superficial stereotypes deeply rooted in pop culture. They reflect a very shallow understanding what Mediation "is" and "isn't"; un-informed ideas of how the Mediation process works, and whether your individual interests are reasonably "protected" by the process; and "if" the specific, tangible benefits offered by Mediation are reasonable to expect given your unique situation. As with most things, “the devil is always in the details.”

The truth is that every case is not a good candidate for Mediation, there are a great many technical nuances and protections (legal and statutory) that should be considered before committing to a path of Divorce Mediation in Connecticut.  It should also be noted that there are a wide variety of Divorce Mediation models available to you...it's not a "one-size-fits-all" thing and it is nuanced.  It is also important to note in answering this question that most Divorce and Family Law Attorneys are well equipped and make every attempt to (first) work through issues amicably and craft divorce agreements with an informed, negotiation between both parties without litigation.  So therefore, the negative stereotypes: Mediation is good AND Divorce Attorney is bad are both ill-deserved and quite often inaccurate.

The basic difference (Mediation vs. Divorce) is that in a Mediation the spouses engage a third party to help them work through their issues.  That third party does not represent either spouses individual, best interests.  A Mediator's prime directive/obligation is to bring both parties to settlement -- which, in the context of Divorce Mediation can come at the expense of the individual best interests of one or both of the parties.   In a conventional divorce, both parties engage lawyers who are responsible for protecting the individual, best interest of their respective client.

A closer look at Mediation reveals important risk factors to Mediation participants that should be fully considered and clearly understood versus the protections and benefits that a conventional divorce offers when individually represented by n experienced divorce lawyer.  See Advantages/Disadvantages of Mediation before foregoing a traditional path for divorce (that starts with the Filing of a Divorce Complaint in the Connecticut Superior Court Family Division) or a hybrid litigation/mediation divorce process. See Divorce Mediation FAQs

Connecticut is an Equitable Distribution state. This means that all marital assets are divided in a fair and equitable way. To be clear, it does not mean that they are always divided equally on a 50/50 basis.

Connecticut Family Law Judges have broad discretion in determining how assets/property is divided in a  Connecticut Divorce.  The decision to take your case to trial (Family Court) always carries risk as things may not work out or align with your expectations, including the disposition and division of Premarital Property.  It is always advisable to make every attempt possible to settle your property/asset division disputes by agreement of the parties.

Separate property is awarded only to the spouse who owns it and will not be a factor in dividing assets.

One of the most common questions asked by men and women who are contemplating a divorce is “how will my spouse’s cheating on me” impact the case.

The short answer is that generally and in a vast majority of cases it does not.  Although Divorce Complaints can, in fact, be filed in Connecticut on Fault-based or No-Fault grounds.  Most divorces are filed on No-Fault grounds - where neither spouse is blaming the other for the dissolution.  Generally speaking, this simplifies the process and minimizes potential emotional conflicts.  Further, plaintiff -spouses do not have to prove (with specific evidence) that the other spouse's misconduct was what caused the relationship to fail in their divorce action.

It is important to note that a petition filed on "No fault" grounds does NOT necessarily preclude a Family Court from factoring into their decisions that one spouse is the reason why the marriage broken down.

Specifically, Connecticut divorce statutes explicitly permit a judge to factor the causes of the divorce (a.k.a. fault) into their decisions when dividing marital property and/or awarding alimony (C.G.S. - §§ 46b-81 (c) and 46b-82 (a).)  Conversely, it does not mean that Family Judges will indeed factor the causes a marriage breaks down into their decisions, just that they have the discretion to do so.

As always, it depends on the particular circumstances of each case.  An example where infidelity could be a factor might in a judge's decision to divide assets and/or set alimony in Connecticut is an instance where a husband defendant supported a girlfriend or formed a de-facto second family and systematically siphoned off/diluted marital assets/income over time.

Historically speaking, adultery was a serious allegation, and fault for a divorce played a role in the awarding of support or alimony and who received what assets of the marital estate. Nowadays, in most states the existence of adultery doesn’t really impact divorces cases at all. Family Judges do not measure/meter out moral authority or play the role condemning a cheater spouse. While they may feel sympathy for the cheated upon spouse, they are no suppose to let those feelings guide the resolution of a case.

Instead, Connecticut Courts look to focus and make a determination on the equities involved. They consider who contributed what to the family. They also consider how the result should get divided without considering “punishment” as a factor.

In Connecticut, cheating doesn’t really “matter” in the big picture – there are usually more compelling and substantive legal arguments on which to focus and make.

 

No, you (the parties) do not have to appear in Connecticut Court to get a Uncontested Divorce.

The State of Connecticut Judicial Branch recently announced that uncontested divorces will be permitted remotely, without the requirement of physical presence in court. This is significant given the current status of court closures because it means that if you have reached agreement with your spouse.

Until recently, physically appearing in family court before a judge was required to finalize a divorce and obtain a court ordered Divorce Decree.

As a result of government office shutdowns and disruptions due to COVID-19, the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch revised is procedure to allow "Final Judgments" and "Orders" as to Separation Agreements and other agreements related to Divorce and Family Law cases without requiring the parties (or their counsel) to appear in Court.

Accordingly, the following type of actions can be accepted and heard "on the papers":

  • Divorce or Legal Separation (Uncontested) -- including Uncontested Divorces filed online (see - What is the procedure (in Connecticut) for filing an Online, Uncontested Divorce?)
  • Custody / Visitation Agreements
  • Motion / Groups of Motions

Divorcing parties must be very careful when utilizing this process as there are specific documents that must be filed with the Court prior to the Court’s consideration of the Application for Approval without Appearance.  The Connecticut Judicial Branch has developed specific forms that must be utilized if an Agreement is to be approved without the presence of the parties. The type of form depends on the case or action to be disposed of and the Connecticut Judicial Branch has developed a website specifically outlining which forms are for which category of case.

See our May 5, 2002 Blog regarding this subject:  Family Court Orders accepted "On the Papers"

What is the procedure (in Connecticut) for filing an Online, Uncontested Divorce?

The Connecticut Judicial Branch has now made it possible to meet the legal requirements of an uncontested divorce online by requiring Affidavits to be filed (Affidavit in Support of Entry of Divorce Judgment, Plaintiff or Defendant) in lieu of in-person testimony, and a Request for Approval of Final Agreement Without Court Appearance.

To proceed with an uncontested divorce, a fully executed Separation Agreement and sworn Financial Affidavits (from both parties) must be e-filed with the court, and if applicable, the following:

  • Child Support Guidelines;
  • An Affidavit Concerning Children;
  • Advisement of Rights;

Until recently (prior to COVID-19), the parties and counsel were required to personally appear before a judge for an uncontested hearing for approval and entry of the Separation Agreement as final orders of the court, but now it can be done remotely, "on the papers."

Can I get a Divorce (Uncontested) in Connecticut without appearing in court?

Yes, it is possible to get a Connecticut Divorce (Uncontested) without appearing in family court.

The State of Connecticut Judicial Branch recently announced that uncontested divorces will be permitted remotely, without the requirement of physical presence in court. This is significant given the current status of court closures because it means that if you have reached agreement with your spouse.

Until recently, physically appearing in family court before a judge was required to finalize a divorce and obtain a court ordered Divorce Decree.

As a result of government office closures, courthouse shutdowns and limited operations schedule due to COVID-19, the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch revised is procedure to allow "Final Judgments" and "Orders" as to Separation Agreements and other agreements related to Divorce and Family Law cases without requiring the parties (or their counsel) to appear in Court.

Accordingly, the following type of actions can be accepted and heard "on the papers":

Divorce or Legal Separation (Uncontested) -- including Uncontested Divorces that are filed online --  (see: What is the procedure (in Connecticut) for filing an Online, Uncontested Divorce?)
Custody / Visitation Agreements
Motion / Groups of Motions

Divorcing parties must be very careful when utilizing this process as there are specific documents that must be filed with the Court prior to the Court’s consideration of the Application for Approval without Appearance.  The Connecticut Judicial Branch has developed specific forms that must be utilized if an Agreement is to be approved without the presence of the parties. The type of form depends on the case or action to be disposed of and the Connecticut Judicial Branch has developed a website specifically outlining which forms are for which category of case.

See our May 5, 2002 Blog regarding this subject:  Family Court Orders accepted "On the Papers"

 

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers – About My Initial Divorce Consultation

What Can I Expect from my Paid Consultation?

Advice from an Experienced Divorce Attorney

Prospective clients who schedule and complete a Paid Consultation get the same advice and service we provide to established clients, even though a formal Client Relationship has not been established.  You will have uninterrupted time with an experienced Divorce and Family Law Attorney to ask questions and explore your options/strategy.

The Benefit of Attorney Client Privilege

Anything you say,convey, and/or communicate to us is subject to the protection of Attorney-Client Privilege  -- as that relationship is established by the payment for service.

Our Dedicated Time and Focus

Our Initial Consultations are scheduled and blocked out for an hour.  Some run longer, but we never rush you.

Document and Case Review with Legal Analysis and Strategy Recommendations

  • Review of existing orders, agreements, and court documents AND a specific legal analysis based on the facts and information that you have provided;
  • Develop a strategy to help you obtain and secure all the personal, financial, tax, healthcare, and medical information you need;
  • A detailed explanation of your rights in a Connecticut Divorce;
  • Review of your options for child custody and visitation, and calculate child and spousal support for you;
  • Inventory your assets and explain characterization and division of assets.
    • Determine if you have any reimbursement rights, and provide an explanation;
    • Assess if you need to hire other experts, such as forensic accountants, vocational evaluators, and/or child custody evaluators.  And, explain the pros and cons of hiring these experts;
  • Explore options for handling your divorce;
    • Litigation
    • Mediation,
    • Arbitration
    • Limited scope representation.

We review your options and explain the potential costs to determine the most cost-effective method to handle you divorce.

It is not unusual for us to advise a client during an initial consultation that our services are actually not needed.  We regularly offer alternatives that benefit only you (and not us), such as referring you or helping you behind the scenes in a mediation.

A Paid Consultation helps you avoids the following time-wasters:

  • Rehashing useless information that can be found on the internet.
    •  We will not waste your time giving you general information you can find on our website.
  • Hard sales tactics.
  • Some Divorce lawyers can be inappropriately and prematurely aggressive.  Some might try to offer a service/strategy that is off-point and hasty maneuvers that are suspect.  Still others may manipulate feeling of anger, fear and paranoia -- creating conflict just to make as much money as possible because “free legal advice” does not pay their bills.
  • Inexperienced or unscrupulous lawyers.

You get what you pay for

In a divorce, your children, marital assets, and future are on the line.  You want a lawyer who understands the complexity and nuances of your finances and assets.  If an attorney is doing free work, they do not understand money.  If they can’t budget for themselves, they certainly cannot advocate on your behalf for an equal/fair division of assets.  Be wary of “cheap” lawyers who will accept $2,500 or 5,000 for your case when your case is replete with complex issues.

Initial retainers do not fund your entire case, and many times, these lawyers enter a case as a "loss leader" with no long-term commitment to you.  It is important to note, that the limited involvement of this kind of attorney can harm you in the long run.  If you pay a cheap roofer to for a “cheap patch job”, and your roof will collapse in the next rainstorm.  When you finally pay a professional roofer, they will charge you more than they would have originally charged you, just to undo the damage from a cheap patch job.  You get what you pay for.

 

 

Most Divorce Attorneys in Fairfield County do not offer Free Consultations.

Needle|Cuda does not offer free consultations.

  • Free consultations create potential liability for Divorce Attorneys (e.g. the possibility of a malpractice claim brought by your spouse in a high conflict divorce);
  • If a Divorce Attorney formally meets with you, that attorney is automatically "conflicted out" of representing your spouse; (in accordance with the Connecticut Rules of Practice)

Lawyers offering Free Consultations are not providing "legal advice"

Most all of the lawyers who offer “Free consults” are not giving you “legal advice.”  There is no such thing as a free lunch, and there are no free consultations in divorce.

Free Consultations create liability for lawyers

Giving legal advice jeopardizes the lawyer, potentially risking themselves of malpractice claims by creating a factual circumstance wherein an attorney-client relationship could be asserted or claimed down the road.   A good, successful lawyer at the top of their game does not expose themselves to liability by giving random legal advice for free.

Those attorneys that  offer Free Consultations simply use them to engage in hard sales tactics and to sell you on their services.  This is a waste of both of your time.

You Get What You Pay For

All of our clients who schedule a Paid Consultation after having “Free Consults” elsewhere have said, “You really do get what you pay for out there.”  In our experience, a thorough initial consultation lasts at least 1 hour.  If a firm or lawyer is willing to commit several hours delivering “free legal advice”, they must be lacking clients or experience.

Remember, a lawyer’s time is his stock.  Reputable, experienced divorce lawyers at the top of their game charge market rates for their time in return for valuable knowledge and expertise.  And, there is a comfort in knowing that you are getting what you paid for.

 

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers – Post Judgment Modifications to My Divorce

Only certain provisions, in limited circumstances, are available can be "revisited" with respect to a Connecticut Divorce.  That said, there is a big difference between a divorce modification, "opening" your divorce and a Divorce Appeal.

Generally, a divorce can only be "opened" if there was fraud or there failure to fully disclosure assets but it’s very rare that a divorce is reopened.  Motions to Open typically will revolve around omissions of facts and information.

By contrast, a Appeal (Divorce) alleges that the trial judge made a legal mistake and the ruling should be reversed or reconsidered.

Assuming a modification is sought with respect to a specific (permissible) provision in your agreement and the circumstances/context meet statutory requirements, a motion must be filed with the Connecticut Family Court to start the process.  This practice areas is broadly referred to as Post Judgment Modification.

A variety of motions are available to be considered--depending on the provision that you seek to change and/or affect and if you meet statutory requirements; these include:

  • Motion to Modify;
  • Motion for Contempt;
  • Motion to Open;
  • Motion to Compel;
  • Motion to Set Aside;

Knowing which Post Judgment motions to file and under what circumstances requires a depth of knowledge and experience about Connecticut family law and with the Connecticut courts.  These matters are best handled by experienced divorce and family law attorneys.

A Motion to Modify (Divorce) seeks to change or revise a single provision or several provisions of a Divorce Decree, such as the amount set for child support or alimony.

When a divorce is finalized in Connecticut it is called a Divorce Decree.  That Divorce Decree is  a formal court order; it is "final"--unless and until the court rules in favor of a petition of modification and enters a new ("revised") order.

Note that there are thresholds/requirements/guidelines relating to Motions to Modify that are important to highlight:

  • Custody, visitation and child support are always modifiable.  That said, a substantial change in circumstances must be demonstrated for the related motion(s) to be considered;
    • Specifically, with respect to custody/visitation, a judge will only consider a modification request if at least 2 years have passed since the last order was entered or significantly modified. A judge is generally more "open" to  modifying a custody order when the child or children are at least 2 years old.
  • Alimony (also known as spousal support) can be modified as long as 1) the alimony award is not non-modifiable, or 2) your right to alimony was not waived by way of your divorce settlement. If the parties agreed that the alimony award would be non-modifiable, then neither spouse may seek a modification, regardless of the change in circumstances.  If one, or both, parties waived their right to future spousal support obligations in their divorce decree, then no matter how dramatic a change in post-divorce circumstances they experience, that party cannot seek alimony in the future.
    • [NOTE: As a result, spouses’ separation agreements and judges’ decisions often contain a nominal alimony payment like $1.00 to preserve the right to modify alimony — By including $1.00 of alimony, the court is able to modify alimony if it becomes appropriate down the road after a finding of a substantial change of circumstances.]
  • Property/Asset Division is non-modifiable;
  • No statute of limitations or time expirations;

Generally speaking, there is no statute of limitations or expiration of the ability to seek modification to your Divorce Decree.  The core requirement is that a material change in circumstances has occurred.

That said, there are notable exceptions:

Alimony may be non-modifiable in some situations.

Sometimes divorcing parties will waive the right to modify alimony in their divorce settlement.  And so, if it was agreed that the alimony award would be non-modifiable in your divorce, then neither spouse may seek a modification down the road, regardless of the change in circumstances.  If one, or both, parties waived their right to future spousal support obligations in their divorce decree, then no matter how dramatic a change in post-divorce circumstances they experience, that party cannot seek alimony in the future.

[NOTE: As a result, spouses’ separation agreements and judges’ decisions often contain a nominal alimony payment like $1.00 for the purpose of preserving the right to modify alimony — By including $1.00 of alimony, the court is able to modify alimony if it becomes appropriate down the road after a finding of a substantial change of circumstances.]

Decisions related to Property/Asset Division are non-modifiable.

Motions to Modify (Divorce) generally most frequently revolve around custody, the terms of a parenting plan, child support,  and alimony.   Property/Asset division decisions are non-modifiable.

The most frequent drivers for Motions to Modify (Divorce) include:

  • The opportunity or need to relocate (out of state or out of the country);
  • Remarriage or  Cohabitation of your ex-spouse;
  • Changes in income and job status resulting substantial changes in income (both increases and decreases);
  • Unpaid or delinquent Child Support;
  • Unpaid or delinquent Alimony;
  • Unpaid or delinquent medical, insurance, and/or education related expenses;
  • Illness (physical and mental);
  • Short-term and long-term disabilities resulting from a accident;
  • Contested healthcare/treatments relating to your child or children;
  • Contested Religious decisions relating to your child or children;

Examples of substantial changes in circumstances that may support a petition for alimony modification in Connecticut include:

  • A new job, a significant raise, or increase/decrease in compensation;
  • Changes in assets;
  • Illness, mental illness, and other short and long-term disabilities;
  • The loss of child support or change in child custody;
  • Remarriage or Cohabitation;

Examples of substantial changes in circumstances that may support a petition for modification of child custody/visitation include:

  • A long-distance relocation opportunity/request arises;
  • Frequent or habitual non-compliance with existing visitation schedules and/or parenting plan;
  • Situations involving physical abuse, sexual abuse, and/or domestic violence;
  • Deterioration of a child’s mental and/or physical health;
  • Sharp declines in performance at school and/or anomalies in a child's educational development;
  • The primary/custodial parent develops a health or medical condition making it impossible to adequately care for the child;
  • Arrests, criminal matters, incarceration;
  • Substance abuse and patterns of addition by parent that endanger a child health and safety;
  • The onset of a mental or terminal illness of a parent (and related hospitalization or commitment);
  • The death of a parent;

No matter your situation, the court will only approve an order modification when it's in the best interest of the child.

And, it is important to note that Connecticut family court judges have broad discretion in the determination of and rulings on these matters.

Under Connecticut law, if one party shows that there has been a substantial change in circumstances , the court, after a hearing, may continue, set aside, alter, or modify the orders related to your divorce.

In deciding such matters, the court must consider  statutory factors to determine what modifications, if any, are appropriate.

Generally, this applies to provisions relating to Alimony, Custody/Visitation, and Child Support.

Court orders relating to Property/Asset Division are non-modifiable.

In the event that your ex-spouse refuses to follow the terms of your Divorce Decree (a court order), filing a Motion for Contempt is a procedural mechanism that can be used to remedy the situation.

A vast majority of people, do in fact, follow court orders without issue, but sometimes an ex-spouse comes along that does not comply (e.g. your ex-spouse doesn't or stops paying alimony and/or child support; your ex-spouse routinely violates the visitation schedule or the terms of you parenting plan;  healthcare and extra-curricular expense are disputed or not properly reimbursed;  there is a failure or delay in following through with some aspect of your property division arrangement)

 

There are two types of Motions for Contempt in a Connecticut divorce:

  • Pendente Lite Motion for Contempt;
  • Post Judgment Motion of Contempt;

The anatomy of divorce has two procedural phases:

  • Pendente Lite (the period during which your divorce is pending in the family court);
  • Post Judgement (the period after your divorce has been finalized by the family court and entered a Divorce Decree (court order)

Note that during the Pendente Lite phase of your divorce, Automatic Order apply in the state of Connecticut that protect the status quo related to your finances, property and your children (e.g. property sales/transfers are prohibited; re-mortgaging your home; beneficiaries on life insurance policies cannot be changed; health insurance cannot be cancelled, etc.)  Automatic orders prevent either spouse from taking unilateral actions with respect to finances, property, and children without mutual consent.

A Motion for Contempt seeks a ruling from the Family Court that finds your spouse in contempt of the prior court order.  A Motion for Contempt requires that the requesting party meet a specific standard call the burden of proof.

Accordingly, for a judge to find your ex-spouse in contempt, the petitioner must successfully demonstrate (with clear and convincing evidence) the following:

  • A clear and unambiguous court order in place;
  • The defendant violated that order;
  • The defendant violated the order acted willfully;

Additionally, you must clearly present and explain the relief/remedy that you are seeking.

The consequence of being held in "Contempt" in Family Court can include:

  • Payment of the opposing party's Attorneys Fees - A party found in "Contempt" can be required to pay opposing party's attorneys fees.
  • Jail Time - Judges also have the discretion to impose jail time.
  • Wage Garnishment - A violators wages may be garnished to satisfy the judgement.

Generally, a divorce can only be "opened" if there was fraud or a failure in one party's financial/property disclosure--but it’s very rare that a divorce is reopened.

In some situations, new evidence, facts, and information can surface after a divorce has been finalized.  In these situations, a Motion to Modify may not offer a sufficient remedy.  When that happens a Motion to Open is one of the procedural vehicles that can be used so that the court can reconsider any and all questions originally raised and impacted by the introduction of the new information.

Generally speaking, a Motion to Open in Connecticut must be filed with respect to a divorce within (4) four months of the date of judgement.  There are further exceptions when a judge finds "good and compelling reason" or the parties mutually agree to waive this requirement.  Other exceptions to the (4) month limitation include: Fraud, the Absence of Consent (including Duress), and Mutual Mistake.

Motions to Open based on Fraud represent a rapidly evolving area of family law in Connecticut.  Such matters are best handled by an experienced divorce and family law attorney.

A Motion to Open due to Fraud presents a very, very high bar.  The Fraud must rise the level that there is a reasonable probability that the result of a new trial would be different.  Additionally, there must be no unreasonable delay by the party bringing the motion following the discovery of the fraud.  And lastly, there must be clear proof the the Fraud and/or perjury.

A Motion to Compel is a request to the court to require an "involved" party to take a specific action.   After a divorce judgment, it is most often used to require a party to that judgment to comply with court’s orders, although a Motion to Compel may be used for other purposes.

In highly contested divorces, it is not uncommon for divorcing parties  to withhold critical evidence, offer vague testimony, file objections to discovery that slow down the process and create a financial burden for their ex-partner.

The behaviors of  these "bad actors" can include: lying about net worth; refusal to produce important personal financial documents like tax returns and bank statements;  obstructing and delaying access to inspection of property and financial/accounting records fcr closely held businesses (e.g. family businesses);  "low balling" the value of property and other complex or exotic assets;  hiding an extra-marital affair and related expenses.

A Motion to Compel "asks" the family judge to order one part to produce the opposing die with evidence related to the divorce which may include:

  • Production of tax returns and related documents (e.g. W-2, 1099's)
  • Production of bank statements, brokerage statements, and other financial holdings;
  • Production of financial records related "owned businesses"  (e.g. profit and loss statements, balance sheets, ledgers, accounts payable records, and distributions, etc.)
  • Deposition testimony;
  • Request for admission of undisputed facts;
  • Personal communications (e.g. emails, texts, posts, photos, and videos)
  • Title to real property and automobiles ;
  • Property appraisals;
  • Insurance policies;
  • Access to real property for inspections and appraisal;
  • Access to exotic property for inspection and appraisal (e.g. art, wine, vintage car collections, etc.)

Yes, prior to filing a Motion to Compel the  petitioner is required to have followed the rules of discovery procedure (in Connecticut), including complete fulfillment and compliance with the petitioner's own production requirements for discovery.  Judicial intervention in the form of a Motion to Compel can only be sought if and when the the Connecticut Practice Book procedure fails.

That said, Motions to Compel are generally discourage.  Prior to filing a Motion to Compel, it is a good idea to make every reasonable effort to resolve outstanding discovery dispute.

A Motion to Compel seeks an ruling from a family judge that results in an court order the compels one party to produce evidence to the opposing party that is related to the divorce action.

  • Section 13-14 of the Connecticut Practice Book authorizes Connecticut state
    courts to issue sanctions for failing to comply with discovery in any of the following ways:
  • Failing to answer interrogatories, or to answer them fairly;
  • Intentionally answering interrogatories falsely or in a manner calculated to mislead;
  • Failing to respond to requests for production;
  • Failing to respond to requests for disclosure of the existence and contents of an insurance policy or the limits thereof;
  • Failing to submit to a physical or mental examination;
  • Failing to comply with a discovery order made pursuant to Section 13-3 of the Connecticut Practice Book, i.e., the rule addressing disclosure of assets when a prejudgment remedy is sought;
  • Failing to comply with Section 13-15 of the Connecticut Practice Book, i.e., the rule addressing a party’s continuing obligation to
    disclose;
  • Failing to appear and testify at a deposition duly noticed; or
  • Failing substantially to comply with any other discovery order
    made pursuant to Sections 13-6 through 13-11 of the Connecticut
    Practice Book;

In practical terms, a family judge can order a party t produce evidence, including:

  • Tax Returns and documents related to income  and earnings.
  • Bank Statements, Brokerage Accounts, and other complex financial holdings (private equity interests, hedge fund holdings, cryptocurrency, etc.)
  • Personal communications (emails, texts, posts, photos, videos, and other electronic "files";
  • Title documents related to real property and automobiles;
  • "Sworn" responses to interrogatories;
  • Deposition testimony;
  • Requests for admission of undisputed facts;
  • Access to property for inspection, appraisal, valuation;

Sometimes, even after the family court issues an order to compel production of discovery items related to your divorce by your spouse, your spouse may continue to ignore the order and fail to produce.

In such instances, a family judge may impose sanctions including:

  • A favorable ruling with respect to the information sought in the Motion to Compel;
  • A Default Order of the court which precludes the defendant from making any further defense in the
    case so far as liability is concerned.
  • Payment of the opposing party's attorneys fees;
  • Additional fees/penalties referred to as sanctions;
  • In extreme cases where there is willful non-compliance, the judge can impose both civil and criminal penalties;

A Connecticut family law judge can order both temporary and permanent modifications.

 

Contact us

Quick Contact Form